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More SC “Penny Tax” Problems

GAS TAX PREVIEW? We’ve covered a lot of corruption in South Carolina over the years, but the “passage” of a $1.2 billion tax increase in Richland County back in 2012 remains the most brazen example of it we’ve ever seen. For starters, this scandal involves an honest-to-God rigged election in which shortages…

GAS TAX PREVIEW?

We’ve covered a lot of corruption in South Carolina over the years, but the “passage” of a $1.2 billion tax increase in Richland County back in 2012 remains the most brazen example of it we’ve ever seen.

For starters, this scandal involves an honest-to-God rigged election in which shortages of voting machines were deliberately targeted to precincts that opposed this tax hike in a previous election in 2010.

The result?  Long lines and wait times approaching seven hours.

“It was voter suppression, pure and simple … part of a calculated effort by powerful local politicians and their special interest backers,” we noted at the time.

In addition to this stolen election, the proceeds of this tax increase have not been spent on core transportation needs as voters were promised (a preview of things to come at the state level, we fear).

Last April, things got so bad former S.C. Department of Revenue (SCDOR) director Rick Reames suspended the disbursement of proceeds from this tax hike to the Richland County – arguing that the money was not being spent “compliance with the state’s tax laws.”

Reames’ agency uncovered glaring illegalities in the way the county was appropriating revenue from this $1.2 billion “penny tax” – including all sorts of shady payouts to politically connected firms.

Richland County leaders were able to get their spigot turned back on – however they have been unable to shut down several lawsuits targeting their ongoing graft.

This week, reporter David Travis Bland of The (Columbia, S.C.) Free Times has a story up detailing further issues with this scandal-scarred program.

From Bland’s report …

An audit of the Transportation Penny Program has raised concerns about whether the county is properly tracking spending. The report was presented to the Transportation Penny Advisory Committee on May 22.

According to auditing firm Elliot Davis Decosimo, the county is not sufficiently comparing projected costs to actual spending, or keeping proper records of that spending. These concerns mirror some of those brought up by the state Department of Revenue last year.

In particular, the audit found the county “has no process to compare estimated project costs with actual expenditures-to-date by project,” as well as “no process in place to regularly reconcile total expenditures.”

Shocker, right?

Sadly, no.  This is the way the “people’s business” is done in the Palmetto State.

From start to finish, this tax hike has been a case study in corruption – with the initial theft and subsequent fleecing followed by a stunning lack of accountability on the part of law enforcement, the courts and the mainstream media.

Only SCDOR and good government gadfly Ned Sloan – one of the plaintiffs’ challenging the improper disbursement of funds – have done right by citizens and taxpayers throughout this ongoing unseemliness.

Our hope?  That Sloan and SCDOR will prevail in court – requiring local governments which seek to raise taxes in the name of “fixing our roads” to actually spend the money in accordance with state law.

Furthermore, we continue to wait for the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) to address the fundamental violation of voting rights that took place in Richland County five years ago.

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